Northland kiwifruit and avocado specialist Patrick Malley was crowned Young Grower of the Year at an awards function in Christchurch last night.
The 30-year-old contracting manager from Onyx Capital kiwifruit and avocado orchard in Maungatapere, Northland, secured his place at the national competition after being named the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower in June.
In the final phase of the competition he topped three other regional champions in a series of practical and theory challenges testing their industry knowledge and skills.
Malley said winning the competition against talented competitors had been a privilege.
"I am proud to take this award back to Northland and Bay of Plenty, but I really hope my success will encourage other young people from across New Zealand to get into this awesome industry," Malley said.
"The competition has been such a great experience and I have learnt so many new skills which I will be using every day in my job."
Challenges ranged from a budgeting exercise on orchard profitability to an irrigation test and assembly of a squash crate.
Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine said Malley surfaced ahead of the field in a competition demonstrating the outstanding grower talent in the country.
"Patrick was clearly able to demonstrate the strong skills and experience needed to succeed in this industry," Raine said.
"He has been clearly committed to this competition from the start and his hard work has paid off."
Competitors had to participate in a leadership panel discussing the role of associate directors of grower boards to the industry and present a three-minute speech on "What makes the best grower?" to dinner guests.
Malley won $2000 cash, the best speech award, the outstanding leadership award and was also named the Young Fruit Grower of the Year.
The Northland grower will go on to compete at the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition in November.
The other finalists were Steve Thomas, of Riwaka, kiwifruit new variety manager and coolstore manager for Thomas Bros; Brett Parker, of Pukekawa, assistant crop manager for Hinemoa Quality Producers; and Graeme Hodges, of Havelock North, orchard manager at Rutherglen Orchard.